Minister for Environment and Climate Change John Cortes last week chaired the virtual meeting of the UK Overseas Territories’ and Crown Dependencies’ Environmental Ministers’ Council.
The Council, which first met in Gibraltar in 2015, is made up of Ministers or their equivalents from all the inhabited OTs and CDs. This latest meeting was held over two days with representatives taking part from 14 of the 17 territories, supported by officials. Also represented was the UK Overseas Territories’ Association (UKOTA), which includes the UK representatives of OT Governments, and the UK Overseas Territories’ Conservation Forum (UKOTCF), which provides the Secretariat for the Council and organised the meeting.
A large number of items were discussed. Climate Change was one of the main topics, with territories discussing their targets and the challenges they face in striving towards Carbon neutrality, as well as sharing ideas and experience in dealing with severe weather events and sea level rise, to which many of the territories are particularly prone.
Representation at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) due to be held in Glasgow this year was also discussed.
Work on protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of the territories - which hold about 90% of the total biodiversity on British territory, also featured at the meeting, with nature-based solutions for dealing with climate change and re-wilding being some aspects discussed in this context.
Also on the agenda was a review of the impact of Brexit on the territories and a discussion on funding for the Environment, including on how governments can ensure that the Environment remains a top priority in territories hit by the economic impacts of Covid-19.
One of the outcomes of the meeting was a letter of solidarity and support to the people and Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, a country which has recently suffered a major volcanic eruption with consequences similar to those suffered in the past by UKOT Montserrat.
Minister John Cortes commented: “It was an honour to have chaired this very well-attended meeting. Once again it proved extremely valuable to exchange ideas and experiences with my counterparts from around the world, and so to be able co-ordinate the work we all do on the Environment. By discussing challenges and solutions we can all move forward better.”
UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies Environment Ministers’ Council meeting, 28-29 April 2021: Zoom group photo of lead delegates (from left to right, then top to bottom):
· Secretariat: Dr Mike Pienkowski, Chairman, UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum
· Gibraltar: Hon. Prof. John Cortés, Minister for Education, Heritage, Environment, Energy and Climate Change
· Anguilla: Ms Chanelle Petty Barrett, Permanent Secretary (Economic Development), representing Hon Kyle Hodge, Minister of Economic Development, Commerce, Information Technology & Natural Resources*
· Jersey: Deputy John Young, Minister for the Environment
· Isle of Man: Hon Geoffrey Boot MHK, Minister for Environment Food and Agriculture
· Turks & Caicos Islands: Ms Tracy Knight, Representative and Head of London Office, on behalf of Hon. Josephine O. Connolly, Minister of Tourism, Environment, Heritage, Maritime, Gaming and Disaster Management
· Falkland Islands: Hon Teslyn Barkman MLA, Deputy Portfolio Holder for the Environment, on behalf of Hon Leona Roberts MLA, Portfolio Holder for the Environment
· Bermuda: Hon. Walter H Roban, JP, MP, Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs
· Montserrat: Ms Janice Panton, UK Representative, on behalf of Hon. Cranston Buffonge MLA, Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Housing & Environment
· Alderney: States Member Annie Burgess, Chair of Economic Development Committee
· Tristan da Cunha: Mr Chris Carnegy, UK representative, on behalf of Councillor James Glass, Chief Islander and Director of Fisheries
· St Helena: The team from Environment, Natural Resources and Planning Portfolio (ENRPP), supporting Councillor Cruyff G. Buckley, Chair, Environment & Natural Resources Committee*
· Sark: Ms Shakira Christodoulou, on behalf of Conseiller Helen Plummer (Chairman, Agriculture and Environment Committee of the Chief Pleas of Sark)
· (British) Virgin Islands: Dr Marcia Potter, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration, on behalf of Hon. Vincent O Wheatley, Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration*
· Isle of Man: Hon. Ray Harmer MHK, Minister for Policy and Reform
· Guernsey: Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez, President of the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure
*Portfolio-holders who had to be away from the meeting when the group image was taken
(Cayman Islands: Apologies and best wishes for the meeting were received from Hon Wayne Panton, Premier and Minister of Sustainability and Climate Change, Cayman, where ministerial portfolios are being settled only the same week.)